Sunday, February 17, 2008

Habs Down Flyers Twice In Two Nights

"Desperation is the word right now," Flyers center R.J. Umberger.

Alex Kovalev had a goal and two assists to lead the Montreal Canadiens to a 5-3 win over Philadelphia on Sunday night, the reeling Flyers' seventh straight loss.

The Flyers, who lost to Montreal for the second straight night, have taken a stunning freefall from division leaders to seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings. Their season-high skid has left Philadelphia only one point ahead of Boston and Buffalo (64).

Coach John Stevens held a closed-door meeting with a team losing confidence as quickly as games.

"We've got to start doing everything in our power that's going to be in the best interest of our team winning hockey games," he said.

Francis Bouillon scored his first goal in 75 games, and Michael Ryder and Saku Koivu also scored for Montreal. Maxim Lapierre added an empty-net goal with 1:24 remaining.

The Canadiens beat the Flyers 1-0 on Saturday night in Montreal behind Carey Price's first NHL shutout and an Andrei Kostitsyn goal. Price followed with 34 saves on Sunday.

The Canadiens are tied with Ottawa for the most points in the Eastern Conference (73), but Ottawa has two more wins.

"Our goal was to make the playoffs and it's still our goal. Sometimes you're ahead a little bit of the curve and I think we are," Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said.

Mike Richards, Braydon Coburn and Riley Cote scored goals for the Flyers. Cote scored his first NHL goal with 18.1 seconds left.

The Canadiens took advantage of a momentary mental lapse in the final seconds of the first period that left Bouillon open to skate nearly the length of the ice and finish the 2-on-1 break with his first goal since last season.

Forward Scottie Upshall drilled Kostitsyn in the corner near Montreal's net. Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges came to Kostitsyn's defense and goaded Flyers defenseman James Vandermeer into a faceoff, leaving Bouillon free to skate uncontested through center ice and score with 2 seconds left for a 2-1 lead.

Gorges smirked at Vandermeer as he skated away.

"I think if each guy is better and more aware every shift on the ice, that's the only way we're going to stop this thing," Vandermeer said. "If I'm a little more aware where the puck is, if I'm back, maybe it slows the play up a little bit."

A play like that seemed to sum up all that's gone wrong for the Flyers.

"Everyone stopped. They thought it was going to be a fight," Stevens said. "That's just a killer. You can't stop playing."

Carbonneau was surprised the Flyers would try and fight instead of defend.

"They completely forgot the play to try to engage in short fighting," he said "They play us enough to know that we're not trying to engage in anything. We're just trying to play the game."
Coburn, who returned after missing four games with a ruptured artery in his buttocks, scored his fifth goal only 34 seconds into the second that tied the score. It was the first even-strength goal the Flyers scored against Montreal this season.

The celebration was short lived.

Ryder punched in the puck off a rebound for his ninth goal only 1:41 later for a 3-2 lead. Then Montreal capitalized on a two-man advantage when Koivu hooked the puck around a sprawled Antero Niittymaki for his 11th goal.

Those were enough goals to send Montreal to its third straight win overall and a season sweep (4-0) off the Flyers.

There were plenty of Montreal fans in the crowd, so when Kovalev scored his 27th goal off a pass from Tomas Plekanec from behind the net, pockets of the upper deck broke into cheers and chants of "Go Habs Go!"

The Flyers tied the score at 1 midway though the first on Richards' 23rd goal. With the Flyers short-handed, Richards faked a pass from the circle, then put his stick down and slapped one past Price.

Notes: The Flyers played without RW Steve Downie (concussion), D Derian Hatcher (knee) and RW Joffrey Lupul (sprained ankle). ... The Flyers have lost six straight overall to Montreal. Their last win against the Canadiens came on Nov. 25, 2006.

Associated Press

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